Gov. Deval Patrick: Homeboy makes national impact

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Election night 2008 was interesting in many ways. The temperature was unseasonably warm. The nation elected its first Black president.

Election night 2008 was interesting in many ways.

The temperature was unseasonably warm. The nation elected its first Black president.

Downtown Chicago was filled with millions of people–all kinds of people–who peacefully assembled to herald their new leader. Some of them had voted for the first time in their lives. Some had waited a lifetime to cast such a vote.

But on that balmy evening, as many were looking toward the future, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was on the porch of his childhood home on the South Side, recalling the halcyon days of the Robert Taylor Homes community he had grown up in that is now all gone.

In an exclusive interview with the Defender, Patrick, in town Friday for a campaign fundraiser, recalled how his days ripping and running in and around the housing projects prepared him for the “zigzag” life and career he would go on to have.

Patrick lived in a two-story, red brick row house in the 5300 block of South Wabash Avenue, just around the corner from the Robert Taylor public housing projects, with his mother and siblings. His grandmother was nearby as well.

“I just sat on the stoop. It was just me and the security guys … and I just sat there and I was thinking to myself ‘look how far we have come,’” the governor told the Defender.

“I remember almost everything about it,” he reminisced. “In those days, in some ways everything was broken. The sidewalks were broken. Playgrounds were broken. The families were broken. People were broken. But we had a very, very strong community. It was a time when every child was under the jurisdiction of every single adult on the block.”

Those days are long gone, he agrees. Multiple summers of rioting and civil discontent devastated the community ties.

The Chicago riots in 1965 and the unrest that came in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 death, “changed the way everybody was thinking about the neighborhood, how we were thinking; the level of fear and care that you took,” Patrick explained.

On his warm fall day’s return home, he saw that much of what had been broken before he left for the East Coast had not been mended or replaced.

Muffled sounds of gunshots in the evening air made his security detail whisk him out of the area.

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